Research Article

Visiting through the night.

BMJ 1993; 306 doi: (Published 20 March 1993) Cite this as: BMJ 1993;306:762
  1. C Salisbury
  1. Grovelands Medical Centre, Reading.


    OBJECTIVE--To describe the time distribution of visits at night and to evaluate trends in night visits from 1982 to 1992. DESIGN--Analysis of a sample of one in 12 claim forms for night visits submitted over one year beginning 1 July 1991, and estimation of the number of night visits in previous years from data on payment. Further information was obtained from performance indicators from the Department of Health. SETTING--General practices responsible to Berkshire family health services authority. MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES--Times of night visits, proportion performed by deputies, and trend in number of night visits after adjusting for the increased hours during which visits are claimed. RESULTS--The change in the hours for which payment may be claimed accounted for 33.8% (536/1584) of all night visits in the sample. After visits during these extra two hours were excluded, claims increased by 38.7% from 1989 to 1992 and more than doubled in the past 10 years. Use of deputies both in Berkshire and in England and Wales dropped by more than half since 1989. General practitioners in Berkshire claimed 31.5 night visits per 1000 population in 1992. CONCLUSIONS--The increase in the number of night visits is only partly due to the change in hours during which visits may be claimed. It is also due to a long term and possibly accelerating rise in demand. This is despite a major reduction in the proportion of calls performed by deputising services, the use of which had been said to be the main factor increasing the numbers of night visits.